Arrow ImageAcute, PICU and Rapid Response

Posted on Jul 8 2024 by Fiona Bailey

A Derby mother of a young man with complex health needs has praised a brand new service set up to help him, saying the progress he has made has been “outstanding”.

Jane’s adopted son is 19 and has a learning disability, autism and experiences psychosis. He was receiving care at St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) until he turned 18.

But, the right service which would meet his individual needs did not exist, so St Andrew’s Healthcare worked with commissioners and set up a bespoke supported transition service within its Northampton grounds, where he has staff looking after him around-the-clock. 

Jane’s son’s mental health first began to decline during the pandemic and he was admitted to a hospital close to where they lived. However, due to his other complex health needs, the environment for him did not help and he became more unwell.

Jane, who also works full time as an emergency call handler, said: “He got worse and it was awful to see. To watch your son decline in front of your own eyes was heartbreaking. We fought and fought, and eventually we got him moved to St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), where he really started to improve. But as his 18th birthday was looming we were unsure what the future held for him, as we knew moving him into an adult inpatient setting would not be right for him, due to his other complex health needs.”

Plans were put in place to help support him and St Andrew’s created Lime Tree Cottage, a bespoke service set up specifically for this patient.

It is a single occupancy hospital-registered house that supports active rehabilitation and independent community skill development, all wrapped up within a safe environment. The service is adjacent to St Andrew’s Workbridge vocational education service.

Lime Tree has been designed to admit adults and younger people who are on a pathway to independent living, who have complex mental health needs and may also experience aggressive behaviours, sensory issues and emotion dysregulation.

Jane added: “Since my son has moved into this new service, his quality of life is exceptional. St Andrew’s have made sure he has consistent staff who look after and he now knows them well. The staff are almost like family and care about him which means my son has continuity of care which is so important. I’ve seen him grow and develop and it’s been wonderful for him.

“He has freedom that he’s never had before. He can go wherever he wants and the staff facilitate that. He has his own bathroom, he can dress himself. The progress he has made is outstanding and the support he’s receiving is wonderful.

“For the first time ever, when I come and visit, it feels like I’m coming to visit my son in his own home. It’s been truly transformational for my son and all of us as a family.”

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s CEO Dr Vivienne McVey said: “We are committed to the National Transforming Care programme for autistic people and those with a learning disability. Lime Tree Cottage is part of our ambitious plan to reconfigure and expand so we can best support all those who have complex mental health needs.

“Our strategy aims to deliver environments over the next four years that will support more than 100 people in transitional and community services. Today there are still more than 2000* autistic patients or those with a learning disability in inpatient care who, if specialist step-down services were available, could be supported in alternate care settings.

“We have plans in place to develop further Supported Transition Services which will help prevent admission to secure inpatient services, enabling people who receive care at St Andrew’s to move seamlessly from hospital to community care.

“Our Supported Transition Services are designed to meet the complex needs of a single person. This means that the environments can be adapted depending on changing emotional, behavioural, and sensory needs of that person at the time. It also means that the clinical team have complete focus on one individual and can adapt treatment, therapy and activities based on that person’s changing needs, interests, and abilities.

“We’re really proud of Lime Tree Cottage and how smooth the transition was as we moved our patient from one service to another. We made sure some staff who knew him well from CAMHS moved with him, so he has been surrounded by familiar faces. We have a dedicated team who ensure he is supported, and he has his own space within our grounds with access to all our hospital facilities and amenities. He’s now getting used to Lime Tree, and the next step will be preparing him to move back home.”

“Here at St Andrew’s Healthcare we are passionate about not only supporting and inspiring hope within our patients, but also their families and carers and we’re thrilled Jane and her son are so pleased with our new service offering.”